Young women seeking confidence as Sport NZ launches ‘It’s my Move’ campaign

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This story originally appeared on LockerRoom.co.nz and is republished with permission.

There’s no pressure on the girls from Megan Longman’s outdoor adventure program, Journeys, to come back every week.

“But we make it so much fun that they don’t want to miss a thing,” Longman laughs.

Based in Alexandra, Central Otago, Journeys is designed for girls ages 12-16 to get out there, get active, and learn life lessons.

A “walking season” teaches girls navigation skills and how to climb rocks, while mountain biking season involves riding bikes and exploring new places in Otago.

The program is free, including bicycle and outdoor clothing rentals, to reduce barriers for girls wishing to enroll. It is a safe space where young girls can participate in physical activities, but also be themselves and explore their comfort zones.

Journeys is a perfect example of what Sport New Zealand hopes to see through the launch of its #itsmymove campaign today.

The campaign focuses on research that has shown a significant decrease in participation in physical activity among young girls from the age of 16. It also revealed that young women’s confidence to participate drops from 76% at age 12 to 53% at age 17.

Sport NZ CEO Raelene Castle says it’s important to create spaces where young women are not judged for their performance.

“Ninety percent of young women surveyed tell us they want to be active and 83% want to increase their level of physical activity. So they understand the value of it and how rewarding it can be, but they find the layering of the pressures of college life, family responsibilities and part-time work to be obstacles,” she says.

“The campaign is designed for people to sit up and take notice, for the voices of young women to share their experiences, particularly around the barriers that prevent them from continuing to participate in sport or physical activity.”

Longman experienced the importance of “no-pressure exercise” firsthand, growing up in a high country resort just outside Queenstown and spending his weekends exploring the outdoors and whitewater kayaking.

“I’ve observed my own growth in my confidence and resilience and how powerful outdoor adventures have been in empowering me, and I’ve observed that in my friends as well,” she says.

“There’s just something special about these ladies and girls-only adventures that really encourages people to challenge themselves a bit more and feel safe and supported.”

Longman and her longtime friend Kim Froggatt decided they wanted young girls growing up in the Otago region to have the same opportunity to be self-sufficient through adventure. So they set to work creating Journeys.

Another 10-15 local women donate their time not only to go on adventures with the girls, but also to attend trainings on how to teach subjects like self-talk and nurture the growth of the different participants.

“These are ordinary, inspiring local women – so engineers, vets, mothers – women who all share a passion for outdoor adventure and also share a passion for connecting and engaging with young people” , says Longman.

Megan Longman, center, with a map, and a team of volunteers go on a weekly adventure in Otago with a group of young women.

Provided

Megan Longman, center, with a map, and a team of volunteers go on a weekly adventure in Otago with a group of young women.

A key part of Journeys is for the girls to help design the program and provide feedback to Longman and the instructors.

“We get together and talk about what we want to do that week, where we want to go. If the theme is going to be about learning new skills or new challenges or about social, fun and connection, we design it and polish it,” says Longman.

University of Waikato Professor Holly Thorpe’s research has focused on young women in informal sports, and she knows how important it is to listen to young women’s voices.

“They have great ideas, really great ideas and we can look across the country and see some really great initiatives that have been developed by young women for young women,” she says. “They’re really finding a niche and young women are flocking to these places.”

Longman agrees. “We know conventional sport doesn’t work for everyone and we’ve been working hard to understand with our girls why they might not be doing some of the things on offer at the moment and why their activity levels are decreasing.”

The girls who started their Journeys in 2019 are now 15 and working alongside Longman and the team to develop what Journeys will look like for 15-18 year olds.

But Longman knows it will be finding things that inspire older teen girls to keep moving their bodies, trying new things and connecting with others on the outside.

“Many teachers tell us that girls who do Journeys show a marked boost in confidence that carries over to school and other aspects of life, so hopefully this will help them continue to negotiate new challenges and to say yes to the opportunities that present themselves,” she says.

Castle says it’s important for young girls to know that traditional, organized, competitive team sports aren’t the only option for staying active.

Seven Sharp

Teenage girls are increasingly abandoning organized sports, preferring to view running, walking and workouts as their best ways to exercise.

“TikTok and dancing in your room are still physical activities, and other ways that people don’t necessarily think about physical activity are really important,” she says.

“Skateboarding, biking, surfing and dancing are really great ways for young women to continue getting the physical activity they need, but in the way they want to do it.”

The #itsmymove campaign is also targeting parents and caregivers, to give them a better understanding of how young women want to stay active and equip them with strategies to help them.

Thorpe says that during the shutdowns some young women may have changed their routines and moved away from organized sports.

“Some parents might say, ‘Oh, they gave up the sport,’ but in fact, maybe they started breakdancing or something fun and joyful. And we should actually celebrate that,” Thorpe said.

“We have a pretty strong idea that organized sport is good for our kids, so this campaign is trying to change those ideas and recognize that moving for fun, fitness and friendship is really, really valuable to our young women. .”

The research behind the campaign found that one of the reasons teens’ declining participation is fear of judgement, and that’s something Journeys hopes to target.

“A safe and supportive environment is essential for all of us to be vulnerable and to attempt new challenges,” says Longman.

“We need to be vulnerable to be able to connect with others and we need to feel safe and supported to be able to step out of our comfort zone. When we step out of our comfort zone with a new or challenging activity, our comfort zone expands.

Longman, left, and a group of Journeys participants during one of their mountain biking sessions.

Provided

Longman, left, and a group of Journeys participants during one of their mountain biking sessions.

Thorpe thinks things are moving in the right direction.

“It’s kind of a shift in the narrative of what’s good for our young women. It’s the young women who find the places where they feel able to be themselves, where the people around them get them, and where they can feel safe to be able to speak up, voice their concerns and contribute.” , she says.

“I think part of the denial of a lot of sports is that young women feel like these aren’t necessarily safe and supportive spaces for them and there’s often a lot of pressure or judgment put on them. .”

Programs like Journeys are a perfect example of staying active in a supportive community environment.

“Doing it on your own is fine too, but especially after and during this pandemic, if we can find ways to connect with others through movement, that also helps us stick to it,” says Thorpe.

“Making friends through the kinds of sports and physical activities that we do is really important for our well-being. Finding activities, forms of movement and fitness that you can do with your friends or make new friends there, where you feel you can be yourself.

Sport NZ Women & Girls – Key Search Results

● Boys spend more time being active, especially from age 16 onwards. There is a 17% gap with girls at 16; rising to 28% at age 17.

● Girls are more likely to cite judgment, lack of confidence and fear of failure as barriers to increased participation.

● Young women’s confidence declines during their school years. Agreement with the statement “I feel confident to participate” decreases from 76% at age 12 to 53% at age 17.

● Young women feel that judgment prevails in all aspects of their lives. Three out of four young women worry about their daily appearance; 42% feel judged in the street; 52% feel judged on social media.

This story originally appeared on LockerRoom.co.nz and is republished with permission.

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